Before mass transportation, before television, before homogenization, Wal-Mart, McDonalds, Denny's, Target and K-Mart, there existed a diversification of businesses, restaurant, shops and Mom & Pop grocery stores. The architecture was different in each city, using the vernacular of the area and the materials that were easily accesible in that locale.
Seattle's architecture was influenced by it's early settlers who brought ideas with them from back East and also from Europe. Some parts of Seattle had Scandivavian influences, like Ballard. Some elegant homes from the turn-of-the-century, like on Queen Anne and Capitol Hill, reflected upper-middle-class affectations from the East Coast.
Seattle, like the rest of the country, has changed. Franchises have taken a hold and many small businesses have closed. Seattle is in danger of losing many of the buildings, shops, icons and neighborhoods that make Seattle, well, Seattle.
Old postcard image
The most enduring icon in Seattle right now is, of course, The Space Needle. Many people don't know that The Space Needle is privately owned. Can you imagine, owning the Space Needle? Luckily, a few years ago it was given official Landmark status, so any further changes that the owners may want to make must be approved by the City of Seattle Landmark Commission.
The Space Needle was built for Century 21, the World's Fair of 1962. Some people say that the fair was the turning point for Seattle, going from sleepy parochial backwater to a major metropolis and Pacific Rim player, but I'm not sure if that was it. I tend to think the change came with Microsoft, Starbucks, "Most Livable City" proclamations and Nirvana, but whatever it was, there's no going back now.
To read more about the the Seattle World's Fair and the Century 21 Exhibit, click here to visit History Link:
Seattle has a few famous icons, but it also has some more obscure signs and buildings, things that may not necessarily be on the main roads or famous outside the city or even outside of a particular neighborhood, but nevertheless, adds to the fabric, character and color of our town.
Pink Elephant Car Wash
The Elephant Super Car Wash sign has been a landmark on Denny since 1955.
Wallingford Wall of Death
"The Wall of Death", an outdoor art installation, is located under the University Bridge in Wallingford.
U-Haul "Space Needle"
I love this, a fake Space Needle! Actually, the sign for the Renton U-Haul on Rainier Avenue South.
Sound Garden at NOAA
"Sound Garden," created in the early 1980s by Doug Hollis is located on the grounds of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, at Sand Point. I have heard that it hasn't been accessible to the public since 9/11, but is still visible from behind a fence. Supposedly the band, Soundgarden, took their name from this sculpture.
The Fremont Troll
"The Troll" lives under the Fremont Bridge. The result of a contest by the Fremont Arts Council, a team, headed by Steve Badanes was voted the overwhelming favorite. It's constructed from rebar, wire and two tons of ferroconcrete. And yes, that's a real Volkswagon it has there in its hand!
Zymogenetics "Steam Plant"
Zymogenetics Building. Built from the old Steam Plant on Lake Union, the building itself was nominated for a historic landmark designation. When the plant was converted to offices, the giant stacks were not needed. Because of the building's landmark status, the stacks were put back on, though their present function is strictly decorative.
Ivar Haglund, was a quintessential Seattle character. He started out as a folk singer, but then opened an aquarium and a fish and chips stand in the 1930's. In 1946 he opened "Acres of Clams" restaurant on Pier 54. He was a great Seattle booster, hosted fireworks over Elliot Bay and even bought the Smith tower for a million dollars. He became a very beloved Seattle character. His publicity stunts, pranks, songs and restaurants have endeared him to Seattleites and he's added greatly to Seattle's unique character as a city. Ivar died January 30, 1985.
The P.I. Globe
Whenever I see the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's globe spinning high over Seattle, I'm filed with pride. Like Seattle really IS the center of something cool, like we're important in the world. the Center of the Universe. See! We have a world spinning on our newspaper building. The world really DOES revolve around us!
Cool ventilator shafts, I guess for the bus tunnel, across the street from Uwajimaya in the International District. Uwajimays is a landmark in itself for those seeking fresh fish, and Asian delicacies of all kinds. It's a great place for a field trip for those raised only on American food......
Lenin in Fremont
An American teaching in Slovakia, Lewis Carpenter, found the statue lying face-down after is was toppled during the 1989 Revolution. He mortgaged his house, bought the statue and brought it back home. He died in 1994 and the statue is on loan to The Republic of Fremont for display and also for sale.
The statue is still quite controversial. For more details, go the the official Republic of Fremont website.
Pike Place Market and the World's First Starbucks (not to mention flying fish, a beloved piggy bank, buskers, fresh fruits & vegetables....)
The Market was almost torn down in the 70's but thanks to the community activism of Peter Steinbruck, it was saved from the wrecking ball and has gone on to become one of our most favorite places to visit. Lot's of artisans, quirky shops and Danny Eskanazi's Giant Show Museum. www.PikePlaceMarket.org
And don't forget the WORLD'S FIRST STARBUCKS. Yes, folks, the world domination of the $5 a drink coffee market started here at Pike Place. It's located at 1912 Pike Place. www.Starbucks.com
Lincoln Toe Truck
Though Lincoln has been sold to another company, the owners of the original Toe Truck have donated it to the Museum of History and Industry.
For more on the Toe Truck and its ultimate destiny, read Eric Lacitis' article in the Seattle Times.
The Fremont Rocket was moved from a defunct surplus shop in Belltown, and local Fremont artists added metalwork, paint, neon and a mural of clouds and galaxies. The rocket was erected in 1994 and soon became a fond meeting and gathering place in Fremont, and helped bolster its claims to be the "Center of the Universe".
When I was growing up, I thought this was the Empire State Building. Turns out it was the tallest building West of the Mississippi for many years. The Smith Tower was locally famous for having copper-clad elevators with live elevator girls. I think those elevator operators are still there. The top floor is the Chinese room and the very top, in the pyramid, is someone's home, designed by Jim Castanes. They charge $6 now to go to the top. A bargain, compared to the Space Needle.... Great photos & info about the Pyramid Residence (The "Lighthouse" , designed by Jim Castanes.
Photo from Seattle Visitors and Convention Center
Ye Olde Curiosity Shop
Has this changed or have I? As a kid, I remember it filled with all sorts of awesome curios and oddities. Now, it just seems full of junk made in China. But Sylvestor, the dried mummy found in the desert with a gunshot wound, is still there.
An unofficial landmark in the University District since 1934, it's been saved from the wrecking ball, at least for now. This place has been a hang-out for Beat poets and generations of UW students, intellectuals and rabble-rowsers. Read Walt Crowley's article in History Link.
Forget Krispee-Kremes. This is the new donut. Small batches made with high-quality ingredients here in Seattle. Two brothers, Mark and Mike Klebeck, have stumbled upon a winning combination, great donuts, good coffee and cutting-edge/retro architecture to attract a devoted clientelle of donut & coffee lovers from around the area. Like Roadside Attractions of yore, the Wedgewood Top Pot sports a gigantic plaster donut and palm trees (shades of Mad, Mad World) to attract attention. Combine that with the delicious smells eminating from the old recycled gas station, and you've got lines around the block on Saturday and Sunday morning.
Jack Mackie is the man behind the steps in the sidewalk 27 years ago, when the artist created this special display. The project came about because the city was moving electrical wires underground along Broadway and had to tear up the street. Mackie poured concrete around a bronzed shoe print, then scraped the wet concrete from around the edges with an instrument the size of his thumbnail. Broadway Steps from the Seattle P.I.
Though Seattle is still a young city, growing and changing, much of its short past is already lost-but not forgotten. Generations of Seattleites have fond memories of restaurants, local television shows, stores, and other landmarks that evoke a less sophisticated, more informal city. This new book explores Seattle at a time when timber and fish were more lucrative than airplanes and computers, when the city was a place of kitschy architecture and homespun humor and was full of boundless hope for a brighter future. These rare and vintage images hearken back to the marvels of the 1962 World's Fair, shopping trips to Frederick & Nelson and I. Magnin, dinners at Rosellini's, dancing at the Trianon Ballroom, traveling on the ferry Kalakala, rooting for baseball's Rainiers, and local personalities including Stan Boreson, J. P. Patches, and Wunda Wunda.
Do you like unusual places, things, buildings and homes? Please visit:
Probably the loss that looms largest in our collective memories is of the Twin Tee-Pee's on Aurora, right across from Greenlake. Everyone knew there was a fire there, but who would have ever dreamed the owner would tear it down? He claimed he couldn't get permits to repair it and the City was moving too slowly for permits so, before anyone could do anything, wham, it was gone.
Another loss on Aurora (with additional stores on Rainier Ave. S. and in White Center) was Chubby & Tubby. Discount Xmas trees, jeans, discontinued items, camping and fishing gear, utilitarian household items and more. I read somewhere that the owners children didn't want to take over the business so, instead of selling to to someone else, they just closed down.
Hat 'n' Boots. It's not actually gone. But it's been moved and not yet restored. It's in pretty bad shape but getting better all the time, thanks to the tireless efforts of the volunteers at www.HatnBoots.org. It's been moved to Oxbow Park in Georgetown. The children's playground has been put in, but the Hat 'n' Boots still need some work. Hats off to Starbucks, Hampton Inns and the Seattle Foundation for their generous support of this restoration.
Bob Murray's Doghouse Restaurant, founded in 1934. A great place to get a Crab Louie with Thousand Island Dressing or Breakfast Anytime. Dickie Dickerson at the Fabulous Werlitzer Organ for your evening entertainment. The waitresses were all Union. The Liver 'n' Onions was the house special. We actually had our wedding rehearsal dinner there.
All Roads Lead to the Dog House!
Grandma's Cookies sign loomed over Lake Union on top of the factory, and we loved how the red sing glittered over the lake. Old-timers will also remember Sunny Jim smiling at us from 6th Ave. South and the cows in front of the Dairygold Dairy building on Rainier Avenue South as perfect examples of period advertising signage, now long-gone.
East of the waterfront, up on South Jackson Street, past the International District and at the base of a steep hill in the Central area, looms a giant red Wonder Bread sign. A lonely piece of Americana, the neon sign is perched atop a shuttered bakery in a neighborhood of boarded-up stores and has become a lightening rod for controversy in this Seattle Central Area neighborhood.
This elephant has been located at this location in the 8800 block of Aurora Ave. N., since 1964, when it was moved from the building next door.
Now, the building is for sale and is being offered as a "development site". What's to happen the elephant? It would be a shame to lose another icon of old Seattle. No, it's not in the same league as Twin Tee-Pee's, but it's still pretty cool, and we'd miss it as we drove down Aurora, which is looking more and more like Anywhere, USA.
If you are you interested in historic preservation, there are several local organizations that offer education, resources, classes and tours.
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